Best ways to eat healthy this summer

By Michele McGovern

One of the best things about summer: the food! And it’s easier than other times of the year to eat healthy.

That’s partly because there’s an abundance of fresh, in-season foods available. Older adults who want to age in place can also cook more often in one of the healthiest ways – that’s on the grill.

“Eating right can help keep your body and mind healthy and extend your quality of life,” says Kathy McManus, Director of the Department of Nutrition and Director of the Dietetic Internship, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in her research on Harvard Health Publishing. “Men and women are living longer. Making an effort to eat healthy can help ensure you’ll continue to enjoy an active lifestyle well into your 80s and 90s.”

Good summer eating is a step in the right direction. Here’s help – six tips to eat healthy:

Get fresh (possibly for free)

Farmer’s markets are open. Road side stands popped up. Even your favorite grocery store is likely getting local, fresh, never-processed fruits, vegetables and herbs. Stop, look and buy these while you can.

Even better, you might be able to get them for free. In Pennsylvania, many older adults are eligible for Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program vouchers. They’re good for most fruits and vegetables at farmer’s stands and markets throughout the state. Most surrounding states have similar programs, too.

Pick lean proteins

Some larger, farm cooperatives also host local meat purveyors. You can find most on this map of farm cooperatives in Pennsylvania. The summer is a great time to choose lean cuts of meat – chicken breast, center cut pork and beef filets. Put them on the grill with minimum added fat.

Another option is fish. Some are more abundant in the summer months because that’s the season they’re harvested.

Stay hydrated

Hot summer months also present a serious threat to older adults: dehydration. You’re more likely to be outside – possibly getting and cooking that nutritious food – and exposed to sun and extreme heat.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and avoid beverages that can contribute to dehydration – such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, alcohol and soda.

You can also amp up hydration by eating nutrient- and water-dense fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, spinach, grapes, watermelon and cantaloupe.

Make healthy swaps

Summer offers many unhealthy foods, too. After all, we don’t tend to think about – or crave – creamy, cold ice cream and sweet, quenching Italian ice on the coldest winter days!

Fortunately, you don’t have to forego all the unhealthy treats of summer. Save your favorite – perhaps a double of butter pecan?! – for a once-a-week treat. Otherwise, make healthy swaps for the less healthy foods and drinks. A few to consider:

  • Try refrigerated or frozen low-fat yogurt instead of ice cream in a bowl or added to shakes and smoothies
  • Enjoy natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup instead of refined white sugar
  • Try water infused with fresh lemons, cucumbers or limes rather than sugary juices and lemonades
  • Use olive oil, vinegars and lemon juice on salads instead of processed salad dressings, and
  • Add fresh avocado to your toast or sandwich rather than butter or mayonnaise.

Watch portions

As good as all the summer food is, it poses a danger: You might be tempted to overeat!

You can control portions, while still enjoying all the good eating and drinking the summer has to offer, by using the USDA’s MyPlate guide. What’s more, the website if full of recipe ideas and more practical guidance on good nutrition year-round.

McManus suggests, “At most meals try to fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter of your plate with whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, or whole-wheat bread, and the final quarter of your plate with lean protein such as fish, poultry, beans, or eggs.”

Practice food safety

Remember, you’re more at risk of food poisoning in the summer. Bacteria that cause food poisoning grows quickly in summer heat.

So keep perishable foods refrigerated when you aren’t using them. If you have perishables out for an extended time – for a picnic or backyard barbeque, for instance – store them in a tub of ice. Also, refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving, as long as they were cooked and preserved outdoors properly.

Leave a Comment